Innovation is about value, not change

darwins-homology-theory-by-catherine-lafferty

Anyone can create value once.

Spot a need. Fill the need. BOOM, we’ve created value.

The problem is: it never lasts.

The value of a product or service – always erodes over time, because the act of creating value changes the environment.

It might be that we’re creating value cheaper and more effectively than someone else, so they start doing it our way. Now we have competition – and they’ve undercut us too – just to say thanks.

It might be that people’s expectations rise with the value we create. What once was valuable is now the new norm, so the perceived value has dropped.

This is why we innovate.

Innovation is about nurturing and growing the value we deliver.

And because this process often involves some degree of newness and change – people get confused.

They believe that all change is innovation.

That we “do innovation” by changing things.

But change is just a byproduct of the pursuit of value.

It’s a means, not an end.

To grow the value of something, we often have to change it. But not all change adds value, so not all change is innovation.

If we want to innovate – then we need to focus on what drives the value.

It will probably also involve change, but by following the value, it will only change as much as is strictly necessary.

Change which drives value, is innovation.

Change for its own sake, is a waste of time and money.

Why we find change so damn hard

LongDarkAlley-GuillaumeDelebarre

It’s amazing how resistant to change we are – even when we’re trying to embrace it.

Over the last few weeks it’s gone back to being dark again when I wake up – and I’ve been resisting it. Willing it were otherwise.

Even though a dark morning is the herald of some of my favourite things (frosty runs, long coats, big boots) it still felt I was losing something. And I fought that loss.

Half the battle is knowing we’re wired this way. We see change as risk. We’re loss averse.

The other half of the battle is the reprogramming. Seeing the opportunity as well as the risk. Seeing the gain as well as the loss.

And then, acting accordingly.

Ambushed by time

Well, that’s the first half of the year, done.

I don’t know why I am surprised by the passage of time, but I am. Constantly.

This is in contrast my kids who think that time is dragging it heels.

“We’ve got places to go, people to be.”

They want time to speed up so that they can become the people they want to be.

I want time to slow down for the same reason.

We all miss the reality of the situation, which is that who we are is defined now, not tomorrow.

But putting the emphasis on “now” puts accountability, ownership and responsibility on us. Right now. Some days that’s empowering, others it’s a burden.

The skill is to be able to move from the latter to the former, and then to do something constructive with it.

Thankfully, in most cases, that’s just a case of paying careful attention to the situation, and putting one foot in front of the other.

Fixed vs. growth mindsets

Change by IPK909001

I’m not a great finisher.

I’m good at starting things off (idea, projects, initiatives), but once the track has been laid, I’m not great at bedding it in. Once something has been started, there’s an amount of work required to improve it and refine it and take it from being pretty good, to really valuable, to fucking amazing.

I’m not good at that work.

Yet.

I used to think that’s just how I am, that it was a fixed trait. I’m a starter, not a finisher in the same way that I’m a thirty-seven year-old, Australian, man and not a six year-old, Kenyan, girl.

As a result, I tried to optimise for my strengths – seeking things out which needed a starter, making it clear where my strength is and then doing that bit I was good at. It was all very self-perpetuating.

A leopard can’t change it’s spots. She’s just not the analytical type. He’s got no head for the details.

But this kind of fixed mindset isn’t very helpful in the long term because it suggests that change, while valuable, isn’t feasible.

One of the biggest challenges we face in life is that we assume that so many things are fixed, both internally and externally.

We assume that people are one way, and can’t be another. We assume that situations and institutions are the way they are, and that’s it. We act as if our personal circumstances won’t change, as it nothing could move us from our current position.

Whether these beliefs are due to perspective, culture or our inability to notice gradual change, they’re all deeply flawed, unhelpful and worth replacing with something more useful. And to do this, we need to start with ourselves.

The opposite of a fixed mindset is a growth mindset, an idea pioneered by Carol Dweck which was initially related to our notions of personal intelligence. The fixed mindset assumes that qualities are static, but the growth mindset recognises the inherent plasticity of things and therefore the potential for improvement.

This is not to say that change is easy, just possible.

I’ve been a starter, not a finisher for thirty-seven years, so that’s going to take a little unwinding. But it can be done.

All the requisite qualities for becoming a completer-finisher are there, they just need to be carved with some determination and grit.

So that’s what I’m doing, starting with this piece, which has been sitting in a ‘drafts’ folder for the last three weeks.

And even if I don’t succeed straight away, i’ll be turning 38 in a few weeks, so at least something will be changing.

Want change? Change something

a street sign which says "change"

We often want thing to be different to how they are.

It’s fine balance, this desire.

On one hand it’s the source of most of our unhappiness, on the other it’s the main reason anything gets done.

But in order for things to be different, we need to do something different. We can’t sit around and expect change to happen around us with no input from ourselves.

In 1936, psychologist Kurt Lewin suggested that human behaviour is a function of a both the person and their environment: B = ƒ (P, E)

In simple terms, if you want a different behaviour, then you have to change either the person or the environment.

We often thing that we can get a different outcome with desire alone. We often underestimate the inertia that all our prior decisions have. We underestimate how hard it can be to fight our own habits without doing something different.

In short: if you want change, change something.